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Karma’s a Botch.

Part V in the Series "It's Not Easy Going Green"

Image from Wikipedia.

Last week, we heard about the Fisker Karma, the new electric vehicle being built in Finland using a $529 million loan from U.S. taxpayers. Beneficiaries of this deal include one Albert Gore, partner in the “green” venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Now Forbes contributor Warren Meyer weighs in with an analysis of the Karma’s true energy efficiency, rate in miles-per-gallon equivalent according to a DOE formula:

Update: Fisker Karma Electric Car Gets Worse Mileage Than an SUV

The Fisker Karma electric car, developed mainly with your tax money so that a bunch of rich VC’s wouldn’t have to risk any real money, has rolled out with an nominal EPA MPGe of 52 in all electric mode (we will ignore the gasoline engine for this analysis).

Not bad? Unfortunately, it’s a sham. This figure is calculated using the grossly flawed EPA process that substantially underestimates the amount of fossil fuels required to power the electric car, as I showed in great depth in an earlier Forbes.com article. In short, the EPA methodology leaves out, among other things, the conversion efficiency in generating the electricity from fossil fuels in the first place [by assuming perfect conversion of the potential energy in the fuel to electricity, the EPA is actually breaking the 2nd law of thermodynamics].

In the Clinton administration, the Department of Energy (DOE) created a far superior well to wheels MPGe metric that honestly compares the typical fossil fuel use of an electric vs. gasoline car, using real-world power plant efficiencies and fuel mixes to figure out how much fuel is used to produce the electricity that goes into the electric car.

As I calculated in my earlier Forbes article, one needs to multiply the EPA MPGe by .365 to get a number that truly compares fossil fuel use of an electric car with a traditional gasoline engine car on an apples to apples basis. In the case of the Fisker Karma, we get a true MPGe of 19. This makes it worse than even the city rating of a Ford Explorer SUV.

[Emphasis added.]

Fortunately for Fisker, the sacrificed efficiency is somewhat transparent to the Karma owner, as it occurs in the power plant and transmission lines. At $87,400 a copy, the Karma is obviously targeted at a well-heeled elite, few of whom will ever notice the true cost of the vehicle on their electric bills.

This is the latest item in the series “It’s Not Easy Going Green”. Lots of technologies work well on a small scale, in a lab, or before you audit the true cost. Scalability is the stumbling block; the quest to replace petroleum as a transportation fuel has to scale up to put a dent in the quarter of a billion vehicles on the road in the U.S. That’s easier said than done.

Coincidentally, $529 million is the same amount as the Solyndra default.

Cross-posted at stevemaley.com.


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